Current Research

Overall, my research interests critically examine social constructions of race and gender. Using qualitative and quantitative approaches, I address broad questions about how institutions of media, science, and technology reinforce institutional inequality, influence broader notions of culture, and impact self-perceptions of identity.

My dissertation research: "Backdoor to Essentialism? Genetic Ancestry Testing and the Social Deconstruction of Whiteness" explores genetic testing and racial/ethnic identity. Drawing on in-depth interviews and a survey experiment, my study examines two objectives: through interviews, I first explore why people take tests and investigate how people navigate identity in the context of genetic profiles. Second, after learning from the subjective experiences of test-takers, I deployed an online survey experiment using vignettes designed to look like a web-based genetic testing advertisement.

Popularity around genetic testing is accelerating the well-known phenomenon of white individuals feeling distant from their white identity. Subsequently, I argue genetic ancestry tests are white racial projects that encourage white individuals to reconsider their racial and ethnic formations of identity. Core findings from my qualitative sample suggest genetic ancestry testing appeals to progressive, educated, white individuals. Principally, these participants feel raceless in their whiteness, want to connect to an ethnic identity beyond a European pedigree, do not want to be associated with white dominance and feel remorse and guilt when sensitive historical issues are discussed

The increase in white individuals checking another racial/ethnic category on the 2020 Census led to the 2022 Sociology Compass article describing the behavior as a "social deconstruction of whiteness." In an era where the socially constructed category of "white" is losing salience as an identity and the history of white supremacy in the US is becoming more widely recognized, the "social deconstruction of whiteness" is a broader theoretical explanation of how white groups use the imprimatur of genetic science to deconstruct their racial identity while leaving the structures of white supremacy firmly in place.

In a paper currently under review at Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, I argue that genetic testing is a white racial project. For white individuals, genetic testing reinforces essentialist connections between race and biology, provides a sense of racial identity or ethnic connection to ancestry, and the ability to negotiate the boundaries of whiteness. In these ways, GATs ultimately reify whiteness, strengthen white identity, and perpetuate myths about biological differences and race. In this study, white participants attempt to liven up their prosaic existence using GAT. When results did not confirm aspirations to discover an ethnic past, participants made sense of their testing experiences to feel more relevant to their current identity. Participants expressed feeling raceless, wanting to be raced, feeling remorse, and ways they remain removed as part of a larger discursive process of marking whiteness.

Additional papers in process include a manuscript with a senior thesis that examines attitudes on genetic testing and essentialism among college students, and another that explores the paradoxical nature and implications of whiteness when testing to discover Indigenous ancestry.

Past Research

My MA thesis research draws on the sociological concepts of new racism and white racial framings to analyze how comic book forum discussions account for a lack of diversity in film adaptations of comic books. Employing a qualitative content analysis of an online forum tailored to comic book culture and superhero movies, this research explores how people negotiate their continued fandom of Marvel comics amidst claims that the comic book industry is discriminatory towards people of color. Findings revealed that fans largely rely on white racial framings throughout discussion. Central themes indicated that most forum participants suggest only overt discrimination implies that race matters, minimize the effects of historical processes, and only a few fans challenge traditional representations that normalize white dominance as inevitable. From this research, "Negotiating New Racism: It's not Racist or Sexist. It's Just the Way it is" was published in Media, Culture & Society in early 2019. I also contributed a research note from this study to Comic Forum, an online space that academics showcase scholarly work on comic books. 

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